Christian Siriano might be a diminutive designer, but he casts a big shadow. We’re only two episodes into Project Runway 5, but there are already a large number of references to his style and personality as we consider the new batch of contestants against last season’s winner.
One new designer who has drawn comparisons is Blayne Walsh. Of course, with only three outfits to consider, it’s not so much his style that’s causing the reference. Rather, he seems likely to be this season’s official catchphrase generator. But does this young designer have more to offer than some quips that might eventually make it to a BravoTV tee shirt? Let’s take a look at what brought Blayne to Project Runway 5.
Blayne grew up in Yakima, WA, and while he was apparently always creative, he actually didn’t get into fashion design until his senior year of high school. After high school, he headed out to Seattle to attend the Art Institute of Seattle on a fashion design scholarship. He made a positive impression there on his administration advisor, who said, “I knew around graduation that he was going to make it big,” said Maggie Edwards. “He is one of my top five students that I’ve ever worked with.”
After graduation, Blayne didn’t head into the same kind of big-name high-fashion opportunities that some of his fellow competitors did in bigger towns like L.A. or New York. That said, his next major design job did have potentially a better fit than one of those big name gigs might, since he’s said himself his style is “urban but not overdone” reflected in “modern street wear in very bright colors.” So being approached, as his Bravo bio notes, by Seattle Seahawks running back Shaun Alexander to design an athletic wear line might be a little more in line with his own laidback urban vibe. He’s now listed as the Senior Designer for Do The Extraordinary.
Getting a new clothing line off the ground can take a little time though, so Blayne has kept his day job as a barista at a coffee shop in West Seattle. His design influence extends to his job as well, as his artwork is featured in the coffee shop, and customers have commissioned him to create fashions for them. He’s also sold his designs in local boutiques and held fashion shows to promote his work.
Interviews with his customers and co-workers all seem to note how genuinely cheerful and energetic Blayne is, but he was feeling in enough of a rut in his day job to be inspired to try out for Project Runway when Heidi Klum threw out the challenge to new designers at the end of Season Four. He headed down to the open casting call in L.A. and, as he tells it, “they must have loved me, how could you not? I’m irresistible.”
Of course, some skeptical Project Runway fans wonder if Blayne was just added because he seemed likely to be, as noted, the potential source for this season’s catchphrases. Well, if that was Bravo’s intention, they might have underestimated just how seriously folks take the whole catchphrase concept. The New York Daily News went so far as to evaluate Blayne’s catchphrase “girlicious” with input from some slang and pop culture experts, who said “[Girlicious] sounds strange” and “like a self-conscious catchphrase created in the laboratory.” Perhaps most damning, one said: “I thought, ‘Okay, he’s trying to be the next Christian.’ “
Well, maybe Blayne’s other effort “Holla at cha boy” will be eventually more successful. And lest you think this is just some ironic appropriation of rap culture, please note that his Do The Extraordinary bio notes that Blayne “has received numerous awards and recognition for his apparel design, painting, stain glass, writing and hip-hop choreography” (emphasis added). Who knew? Maybe Blayne will continue to be full of surprises as the season progresses.
– Leslie Seaton, BuddyTV Staff Columnist
Sources: www.dotheextraordinary.com, NY Daily News, On.YakimaBlogs.com, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, West Seattle Blog, West Seattle Herald, Yakima Herald
(Images from BravoTV.com and DoTheExtraordinary.com)